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Softly breaks the rippling billow
Yes! 'tis he; borne by the deep
A Review of the Gallery of the American Academy of Fine Arts,
as now opened for the Exhibition of Dunlap's Painting of " Death on the Pale Horse." (continued.).
As in duty bound, we visit the gallery frequently ; that such additions as shall be from time to time made to the collection, may not escape our critical inspection. We need not say that
we are always rewarded ; but on our last visit we were particularly gratified, by finding another landscape from the pencil of Mr. s. Cole. This is a view of part of the upper falls in the Kattskill mountains ; and is the picture which attracted the attention of the president of our academy, and by that means brought into public view, the uncommon talent of Mr. Cole. Though not a more perfect picture than the lake scene noticed in our last number, it is more splendid, more brilliant, and more poetical. The artist had more difficulties to surmount, and, as he has surmounted them, has evinced more skill. We will call the attention of the spectator to the depth into which the water is rushing to the rocks--to the autumnal foliage of the forest, so bright, so true, and so harmonious; and then direct his eye to the distant mountain, from which the wind is whirling the mist-cloud, and scattering it abroad into the heavens. This beautiful composition, evinces in the painter the true poetical feeling of the sublime. This picture would, of itself, place Mr. Cole among the most eminent landscape painters, but his claim to that station is made out to the perfect satisfaction of the connoisseur, when the varied and contrasted excellences of the three pictures (two of which we have noticed) are viewed at the same time.
Before returning to the Catalogue, we must notice the two charming pictures by Newton and Leslie, with which Mr. P. Hone has enriched the Gallery and his country.
The first, Newton's representation of Age and Youth, we should call the most splendid painting of the two. The breadth of light and brilliancy of colouring, catch the eye, and hold it by fascination, by the magic of sweet tints. The scene appears to be Flemish, and perhaps reminds us a little too much of the Flemish school ; not of its vulgarity or indecency, but of its better and higher qualities. The girl sleeps from top to toe; full of health, and ornamented with the beauty which health and youth and goodly attire give, but without any of the elegance of the beau ideal, she is an object on which the eye dwells with delight ; and though we smile while contrasting her with her studious companion, we would not wish to awaken her to the cares which evidently beset him. This beautiful figure is connected with the aged reader by a table, covered with a rich cloth, and the eye passing from its rich tints, rests pleased upon the more sober colours of the old man. This figure is nearer perfection than the first, and is painted with a skill and freedom rarely to be found combined with so high finishing. The light of the picture, which enters at a window, spreads beautifully over the figure of the girl, upon the
table cloth, upon a remarkably well painted map in the background, and rests upon the chimney front above, and the floor below, leaving a triangular mass of a rich dark colour on and behind the old man. Care, study, skill and talent, are evinced in every part of this splendid and masterly performance.
After having expressed our admiration of the Newton in such glowing terms, it might be feared, that in speaking of Leslie, we should run into repetition ; but the compositions are so distinct in character, and the subjects so widely different, that in describing or criticising, sameness cannot occur.
This scene of humour from the great Master of Nature, is so treated by the painter as to bring before the spectator, the imaginary personages of the poet, as he saw them in his mind's eye. They are not the Anne Page, Slender and Shallow of the stage but we are introduced into the house of Master Page, whom we see at a distance speaking with Master Fenton, we hear the shallow merry old justice say she's coming; to her.coz. O boy, thou hadst a father!" and the booby boy echo, “ I had a father, Mistress Anne ;my uncle can tell you good jests of him ;-pray you uncle, tell Mistress Anne the jest, how my father stole two geese out of a pen, good uncle."
To understand the figure, attitude and expression of the beautiful Anne, or “sweet Anne Page," we must remember that she had just parted from Fenton, her beloved lover, and read her speech relative to Slender; “ This is my father's choice.
what a vile world of ill favour'd faults, looks handsome in three hundred pounds a year!" In short, to relish the picture, the spectator should come fresh from reading the scene ; and he will then understand and feel the non-chalance of Anne--the gawky air of the retiring Slender-the edging on of the uncle, with his sly self-sufficient visage. Then contemplate the propriety of the costume of each character--true to the time and as full of the author are the faces of the personages ; with this preparation, having viewed the picture, it must be pronounced a master piece.
Mr. Leslie owes his superiority over his competitor, partly to the happy choice of his subject, partly to the power of conceiving the humour of the author in its full extent, yet giving it with a delicacy belonging peculiarly to his own character, and partly to his superior drawing and knowledge of chiaro
Our limits will not permit us to point out the many minute, though great beauties, which pervade both these very fine pictures. They may be studied again and again, to the profit of the artist, and the delight of the amateur.
Before we resume our consideration of the pictures numbered
in the catalogue, notwithstanding our previous intention of leaving the representation of the king of terrors, and his surrounding horrors, to the last, we will take this opportunity, while fresh from the examination of Newton and Leslie, to give our opinioa of the merits of this gigantic composition by another American.
Mr. Dunlap has avowedly made use of the little outline which was published some years ago from Mr. West's sketch of Death on the Pale Horse. Artists only can appreciate the agsistance he would derive from this hint; and they alone can know how much he had to do, before he could produce the present splendid painting.
The outline, doubtless, gave the arrangement of the figures and groupes, but the whole effect of light, shadow, and colour, was left to the invention of Mr. Dunlap, as well as the draw. ing of the individual figures, and expression of the individual countenances; for the little outline we speak of, is so very small as not to admit of either.
Having settled what portion of responsibility is to be thrown upon the author of the picture before us, we go on to say, that he has produced an effect greater than we ever saw produced by painting.
It has been said, that the subject is beyond the reach of the pencil, and that the picture is consequently a failure. If the painter was bound to attempt nothing but what could be brought before him, visible and tangible, this would be true. But with the poet he may ascend into Heaven, or dive into hell; and though neither fully succeed in depicting the scenes of the world unknown, the attempt alone produces a sublimity and a perfection, which would not otherwise be attained. Witness The Last Judgment of Michael Angelo, the Inferno of Dante, the Paradise Lost of Milton, and, we will add, the present sublime composition of Death upon the Pale Horse. This great picture, though strictly one in its action and combination of effects, is divided into three parts, or pyramidal groupes, all united by light and colour. The centre or principal groupe, contains the pale horse and his rider, and a family consisting of a father, mother, daughter, and infant boy, forming the great light of the composition, and changing the terrible of the first impression, into the tenderness of the pathetic.
The husband and father—the youthful and beautiful wife and mother--the daughter and son-all in the pride of wealth and health, are blasted instantaneously by the breath of the horse, and the darts of his merciless rider. There is here a combi
nation of light, shadow and colour, which the ignorant, as well as the connoisseur, must feel and appreciate.
The second portion of the picture contains the white horse and his rider (Gospel) going forth crowned, conquering and to conquer—the red horse and his rider armed at all points, and brandishing his sword, and the black horse and his rider, the judge with his balances.
The light of this portion of the composition is on the white horse'; who, self-directed, bears his triumphant master; and this light is gradually diffused, until lost above in the lurid light of the followers of death, and below, in the distant field of battle.
This groupe, although full of spirit and sublimity, is inferior, as it ought to be, to the centre of the picture.
On the other side of the canvass is exhibited the destruction of the beasts of the earth. Men and horses are overthrown by the rushing of two lions ; some are in helpless despondency, others resisting, and the force of contrast is skilfully shown in every part. The finest figure, and that which has occupied most of the labour and attention of the artist, is a man who is overthrown, but is preparing to rise, and presents to the spectator a fine back, extremely well drawn and coloured.
Here we have another pyramid, the base of which is formed by the figures above mentioned, and the top, by the thigh and leg of a youth who is tossed by a bull.
The light of the picture is carried skilfully from the lower corner on the left, where it rests on the spearman's foot, to the upper corner on the right, where it mingles in the sulphureous tint of the hell-brood, who follow in the train of death.
We have implied our approbation of the general tone of colour which runs through this stupendous composition. We will only remark the peculiar beauty of the colours, and the harmonious transition on the mother and dead child, and the girl, lovely in youth and health, with the receding tints on the manly form of the husband and father.
We believe the combination of light and colour to be according to the best and most philosophical theory, which is elucidated in the simplest and most forcible manner, by the familiar instance of the billiard ball. Extreme light, cold-middle light, warm-half tint, cold and blue---shadow neutralized, but inclining to warmth-reflex, warm, and of the orange tint.
As we wish to finish our review in this number, we must limit our observations, and take leave of this great work, to proceed to
No. 55 of the catalogue. Portrait of a gentleman. Waldo